Minnesota Power customers are now receiving half of their energy from renewable sources as the company becomes the first Minnesota utility to deliver 50% renewable energy to customers.
The achievement highlights the success of Minnesota Power's EnergyForward strategy to transition to cleaner energy sources while meeting customer expectations for reliable and affordable electricity. The company reached this milestone when the Nobles 2 wind project in southwestern Minnesota came online this month.
"We are committed to advancing a sustainable future of reliable, affordable, and increasingly lower-carbon energy for our customers and our communities and this is an important milestone in our clean energy transformation from relying almost completely on coal to delivering 50% renewable energy, accomplished while keeping our residential rates the lowest in the state of Minnesota and improving the reliability of our system," said Bethany Owen, ALLETE president and CEO. "We are proud of how far we have come in this transformation, but we know we have more work to do."
The Nobles 2 wind project will supply renewable energy to Minnesota Power through a 20-year power purchase agreement. The project is also an investment for ALLETE; it is owned by Nobles 2 Power Partners LLC, whose investors include an ALLETE subsidiary, energy company Tenaska, and Bright Canyon Energy.
With Nobles 2 operational, Minnesota Power's wind portfolio has grown to approximately 870 MW of owned and contracted wind capacity. The Nobles 2 wind addition also adds geographic diversity to Minnesota Power's wind portfolio, complementing its North Dakota wind sites and contracts.
Nobles 2 is the second 2020 project to help Minnesota Power reach 50% renewable. The first was the Great Northern Transmission line, energized this past June. This 500-kV line delivers 250 MW of carbon-free hydropower from Manitoba Hydro to Minnesota Power customers. Power purchase agreements with Manitoba Hydro include a wind provision that allows Minnesota Power the flexibility to balance its intermittent wind energy in North Dakota with hydroelectric power that is available on demand.
Beyond this milestone, Minnesota Power is making additional plans to further transform its energy supply.
"Minnesota Power's next biennial integrated resource plan is scheduled to be submitted to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in February," said Julie Pierce, Minnesota Power vice president of strategy and planning. "That plan will outline scenarios for the thoughtful transition of our coal units at Boswell 3 and 4, the next steps for the transition to even more renewable energy, and more investments in the grid to enhance reliability, all while working to ensure affordability, the health of our communities, and opportunities for our employees."
Under Minnesota Power's EnergyForward strategy, the company has:
- Reduced carbon emissions by 50% from 2005 to present.
- Retired or idled seven of nine coal-fired generators.
- Added nearly 900 MW of wind energy to its energy mix.
- Added 11 MW of solar energy, with plans to add about 20 MW more in 2021.
- Improved the reliability and resiliency of transmission and distribution (T&D) systems.
- Refurbished the state of Minnesota's largest hydropower system to keep it operating for decades into the future.
- Added smart meters and other technologies to help customers gain more control over their energy use and bills.